Blockchain and other Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) are immutable, encrypted and timestamped databases, in which data is recorded, validated and replicated across a decentralised network of nodes.
A range of opportunities and challenges could emerge through such technologies that will potentially enable parties who are geographically distant, or have no particular trust in each other, to record, verify and share digital or digitised assets on a peer-to-peer basis with fewer to no intermediaries.
The JRC has just completed a research project to explore the existing, emerging and potential applications based on Blockchain and other DLTs for industrial / non-financial sectors. The outcomes of the project and the accompanying report were presented at the closing event, taking place on 24 May in Brussels.
#Blockchain4EU: Blockchain for Industrial Transformations project, coordinated by the JRC's EU Policy Lab developed an innovative experimental approach that allowed generating ideas on how Blockchain and other DLTs could exist in the near future and ultimately test new narratives and plausible scenarios around it.
Amid unfolding and uncertain developments of the Blockchain space, the researchers signal a number of key insights for implementation and uptake by industry, businesses and SMEs around a technology that could record, secure and transfer any digitised transaction or process, and thus potentially affect large parts of current industrial landscapes.
Strategic recommendations for policy-makers
- Support experimentation and piloting with simplified requirements, including for grant or procurement procedures, coupled with real-time monitoring and evaluation.
- Build upon other digitisation initiatives and programmes to avoid duplications or overlaps and to support the integration of Blockchain with other key industrial technologies.
- Stimulate knowledge sharing and collaborations between projects. Priority should be given to free and open source models for developing research, platforms and protocols.
- Foster interoperability and open standards with wider engagement. Open standards should continue to be fostered following a multi-stakeholder, collaborative and consensus driven process.
- Promote adequate skills and training also beyond core Blockchain spaces. Incentives to recruitment and/or development of programs should create Blockchain expertise across a diversity of areas. Actions for upskilling or digital skills training with special attention to SMEs should be further pursued.
- Cultivate wider exchanges between policy and Blockchain stakeholders to understand the opportunities and challenges ahead. This could be facilitated in environments such as innovation hubs and regulatory sandboxes.
- Fund Blockchain interdisciplinary and problem-driven research. Funding should be geared not just to technological research, but also to policy, economic, social, legal and environmental analysis.
- Design stable regulatory frameworks for better policy preparedness. Regulatory certainty around key issues is needed to unlock opportunities for experimentation. Concerns about over-regulation shouldn’t translate into missed opportunities to shape and guide Blockchain development.
- Champion Blockchain in public and governmental sectors. Blockchain could be explored by public sector organisations to tackle specific challenges in their own activities. It could not only increase demand but also legitimize and stimulate experimentation across private and commercially driven worlds.
Understanding the future with prototyping for policy
Developed within the JRC's EU Policy Lab, the project pushed the frontiers of what’s common practice in policy when looking into new technologies. The resulting five speculative Blockchain prototypes, co-created with diverse groups of stakeholders, are meant to increase the range of the project's forward looking research and provide an alternative way to communicate about Blockchain.
Prototyping for policy offers ways not meant to predict futures, but instead to open up discussions for better informed decisions on the preferred directions of what is to come.
Gigbliss is an Internet of Things suite that offers three models of the same hairdryer, AUTO, BALANCE and PLUS, linked to three distinct economic models of energy consumption, management and trading.
#Blockchain4 EU Gigbliss
Bloodchain (transports and logistics)
Bloodchain is an assets management system designed to deal with multiple points of supply and demand for the collection and transport of blood and other sensitive biological materials.
Gossip Chain (creative industries)
Gossip Chain allows anyone to submit rumours to a localised Blockchain and then it combines people's reputations and prediction markets to assess and register the information value and reliability.
#Blockchain4EU Gossip Chain
Vantage Point (advanced manufacturing)
Vantage Point is a platform tackling data sharing, interoperability and integrity in manufacturing systems by storing products' digital twins and providing distinct information on them based on specific actors’ needs.
#Blockchain4EU Vantage Point
Care AI (health)
Care AI is a service providing access to basic healthcare in exchange of anonymised personal health data, which is later connected through smart contracts to a data marketplace for third party public and private entities.
#Blockchain4EU Care AI
Beyond their public presentation in the #Blockchain4EU final event, the five prototypes will be used later for research purposes in the scope of future activities developed by the JRC.
But most crucially, the prototypes will be used by DG GROW and other European Commission policy departments to stimulate debates on Blockchain and other DLTs within EU policy, industrial and business contexts.
The project entailed a mix of desk and qualitative research with a series of interviews, surveys, and ethnographic explorations, together with co-creation workshops.
These workshops resulted in the collaborative envisioning, design and creation of five prototypes aimed at physically showcasing how Blockchain could be applied in five specific sectors: energy, transports and logistics, creative industries, advanced manufacturing and health.